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CA Mask Mandate Officially Ending June 15

Patch logo Patch 5/17/2021 Kat Schuster
logo: California is keeping its rules for wearing facemasks in place until the state more broadly lifts its pandemic restrictions on June 15. State officials said Monday, that the delay will give people time to prepare, and to make sure cases stay low. © AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File California is keeping its rules for wearing facemasks in place until the state more broadly lifts its pandemic restrictions on June 15. State officials said Monday, that the delay will give people time to prepare, and to make sure cases stay low.

CALIFORNIA — Gov. Gavin Newsom first ordered all Californians to wear face coverings on June 18, 2020. Nearly one year later, on June 15, the state will officially lift that mandate for fully vaccinated residents, following federal guidelines.

Until that day — when the state intends to fully lift coronavirus restrictions — the state will keep its existing mask rules in place.

"This four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change," Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state's top health official, told reporters on Monday.

However, it will ultimately be up to the state's 58 counties to set their own masking rules.

"Always, local health jurisdictions can put in place stricter guidelines in the state," Ghaly said. "And of course, private businesses can drive how they implement this as well as throughout this pandemic."

Earlier this month the state gave a green light for fully vaccinated individuals to ditch their masks outdoors. The decision to allow fully vaccinated Californians to unmask both indoors and outdoors raises some important questions: How will this be enforced? Will residents need to flash a vaccine card to enter certain events or businesses unmasked?

For now, it appears that California is going with the honor system but that could change in the coming weeks.

" I think that's why California has given ourselves some time to answer the question you just raised and a few others moving forward in the next couple of weeks," Ghaly said Monday, responding to a reporter's question about enforcing the mandate.

Trader Joe's became one of the first stores to drop its mask requirement for fully vaccinated shoppers, with Walmart, Target and Costco jumping on the bandwagon shortly after.

Ghaly said the state would be working with businesses and employers in the coming weeks to draw up guidance for how sectors can ensure the mandate is followed.

"We do plan to continue to work with ... business sectors, employers throughout the state on exactly how this can be done, to ensure that those ... without masks are vaccinated and making sure that we continue to provide a high degree of protection to California," he said.


Video: Mask Mandate May Go Away In June (CBS Los Angeles)

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Until then, Ghaly urges those who have not been vaccinated, to do so before the state reopens on June 15, when the state's tiering system is done away with.

"And I'll also say that four weeks between now and June 15, allows a number of Californians who may be eligible to get vaccinated but were considering waiting a little longer," he said. "Now that they see that there'll be a little less masking out in our communities, they may decide that this is the week to get vaccinated."

To date, the state has administered some 34 million vaccine shots and has consistently reported a 1 percent positivity rate — among the lowest in the nation.

The decision comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's move to relax its mask mandate last week. In the days between, confusion festered in the Golden State, with some calling for an immediate erasure of the mandate and others urging the state to hold onto it.

Many other states lifted their mask requirements last week after the CDC announced that it was safe for fully vaccinated people to unmask in most siutations.

Throughout the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, face coverings became something of a political statement, which could carry on even past the state's reopening day.

"The guidance was prematurely released. We believe there's a lot of work to do to prevent the pandemic from going into a fourth surge," Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United said, according to KCRA.

Alternatively, UCSF's Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert, called for the immediate removal of the mask mandate last week.

"There is immense collateral damage that comes from not easing restrictions after most people are vaccinated," Gandhi told San Francisco Gate on Friday. "It sends a message that there’s still a danger when there isn't one, and then schools remain closed and businesses suffer. Some collateral damage from restrictions needed to occur when we didn’t have vaccines, but now that we have them, there's no justification."

Newsom’s former chief of staff, Ann O’Leary, was among those upset by the CDC’s decision.

"My blood is boiling that @CDCgov acted so irresponsibly to adopt an 'honor code' for public mask wearing,” she tweeted. “It’s not good public health advice to say to parents whose kids can’t get vaccinated, just trust the public to do the right thing with all the politicization over masks."

Newsom, like the Biden administration, has been under pressure to ease mask restrictions particularly for those who are fully vaccinated and as coronavirus cases ease nationwide.

The Democratic governor is facing a recall election this fall driven largely by frustration with his handling of the pandemic.

READ MORE: Newsom's Relief Package Could Pay Rent, Parking Tickets For Some

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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